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Good Dog

Tom Sturch

english bulldog - one dressed up as santa the other as rudolph An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. ~ Oscar Wilde

So there we are. It's Black Friday and we're stuffed like the turkey we ate a day ago. Bev is decorating for Christmas and I should be enjoying a day spent writing. But I'm anxious instead. My rough draft is late and the animals of my ideas scurry and hide like scared, hungry strays let in from the cold.

Last month, dear reader, I tempted you with a reductive version of the Christian hope. I isolated Truth and looked at its wasteland. In a reversal of the old fable – where Truth roams naked and unwelcome in the village, then Story wraps it with goodness and finds it a home – I instead annulled its adoption and kicked it back into the street. Brutal!

So, this month I imagined Goodness naked and wandering, but I have found myself overrun with a menagerie of abandoned, ill-mannered notions of it that I feared I could never make presentable. I think every writer is part zookeeper, part animal trainer – each idea needing a bath and the startling redirection of a sharp clap. But I was stuck on one in particular. It had been here a month with no progress. It would snuggle, hairy and hot, morphing as it slept against my body like a large, ungainly dog. And it was a hybrid. I feared it would become the Indominus rex of Jurassic World we had just watched. Ideas have consequences, you know. I looked at the animal. It looked back and drooled. Nights passed slowly.

Today I tried naming it. Leviathan. Doglizza. OMG-itsaurus. Nothing fit. It still stank. It was grimy and matted in ways that looked like extra body parts. I thumbed through books for facts about breed and keeping. I cruised the vast Big Box of the Internet hoping to find the perfect behavior modification, or a sweater. Maybe a bow.

Now and then I would glance up, pensive and vacant. The television was showing Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The sound was off. It was that part near the end where the massive, bright spaceship is rising and dwarfs Devil's Tower in black silhouette. The science base in front is even smaller. I'd seen it twenty -five times but stripped of it's music and sound effects it appeared strange and new. It penetrated my preoccupation and I saw something I'd never seen before.

“Speilberg. You dog,” I said out loud. “This whole movie you've isolated the ground of contrast in that damn tower.” I felt something wash over me. “The whole dog-gone movie.”

It combed through my tangled thinking. Director Speilberg had exaggerated a distraction only to make it disappear like a background with scale that allowed me to see the enormity of his grand idea. The protagonist's obsession became the swirling center of the movie's vortex where all the conflict resolves. As Tom Snyder writes about it, “Light and music transcend the boundaries between the known and the unknown, the human and the alien, the real and the imagined.”

Then, I looked around our house and I saw it was Christmas. Beverly's handiwork, even in the throes of my self-consumed darkness, had surrounded me with extravagant goodness. And suddenly the animal of my idea was groomed, powdered and seemingly well-behaved.

I wrote quickly: Puppy to a good home. Free for the taking.